Saturday, December 23, 2006

Santa Gets Mobbed at Cleaverlearn in Hanoi

I played Santa Claus at Cleverlearn for the children. It turned in to a riot as the kids swarmed me and began to trample each other to get at the presents in my bag. We attempted to take video, but it was too dark. Click the link above to view a movie of the sordid ordeal.
Merry Christmas,
Ed & Karen
Christmas Mayhem

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Sunday, December 17, 2006

Wintertime Blues

As we are nearing the end of December, the idea of another Christmas away from home is looming ever larger. It is odd how you grow to miss even the things you hated most about home. The more I start missing Halifax, the more I try and remember icy winter days, scraping snow off of the windshield with numb hands, the seemingly endless night that is January and February. The funny thing is I actually miss the crunching of snow beneath my boots and the cool crisp feeling in my lungs of a deep morning breath. It has been an endless summer for these past twenty months, and as much as I enjoy that, there is really nothing like warming up in a cozy home after a battle with the elements.
There is also the tradition of Christmas that I have grown to enjoy. Christmas eve at Bob and Noreen's or Doug and Helen's and then Christmas day and early evening at my parents house and then the Christmas evening party at Kelly's (before) and Kelly and Joe's (now). Always followed by a trip to Karen's parents house immediately after. We will miss that again this year, but we will be thinking of everyone.
We have met some folks here who have invited us to a Christmas dinner, turkey and all the trimmings, and we have graciously accepted. At least we will have a proper Christmas dinner this year, unlike our Steak and Potatoes of last year.
So, again, as we said last year, when you are all together enjoying this yuletide season, have a drink for us, and the other displaced family members and friends who would all rather be with you, than wherever it is they are.
Merry Christmas everyone, and Happy New Year! We love you.
Ed & Karen

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Welcome to the Jungle

It hadn't occurred to me until someone at work brought it up. Vietnam will ruin me for all other places. I obviously need to explain this in more detail, and I will try to do it without sounding all "Do I look fat in this dress "
Everything is very cheap here, as I mentioned before, and that was exciting for the first little while. Now, at the three month mark, I am beginning to get worried about this lifestyle. Absolutely anything you want is available at almost no cost. That is the kind of thing that is dangerous to get used to. I don't think I mentioned this before, but we do not cook at home. It is pointlessly messy and more expensive than eating out. This means I have been eating at restaurants for three months. I am not talking about Mickey D's and Subway here, I am talking about good restaurants. It costs me, generally, less than 5 US dollars to eat wonderful meals, containing multiple courses. Great, right? yeah, for the first little while. Now I am more like, I wish I had a can of Chef Boy-R-Dee Beefaroni, as I am dining on a Fred Flintstone sized rack of Baby back ribs, potato wedges and salad.
The question is, How does one come back from something like this? How do I return to North America and resume the 9-5 lifestyle, where eating at a nice restaurant is a special evening you do once an a while, as it will cost you 100.00 or more, if you decide to have drinks and desert. There is no tipping or tax here. So if you have a 50.00 food bill in a restaurant in Canada. You are looking at 7.50$ in tax and 7.50$ for a tip, if you do the 15%. 15 dollars on a 50 dollar bill.
Here, not so much. If we spend 20.00 US on a meal here. I assure you, we will be leaving food on the table and we will be intoxicated. And that's 20 dollars total, no tip, no tax, for both of us.
My point is, we will be here for another year, possibly longer. We were psyched by the cheapness of food in Taiwan after Canada, and Vietnam makes Taiwan look expensive. I am starting to worry about spending "too long in the Jungle"!
I heard that figure of speech a couple of months ago from a Kiwi expat who had been in SE Asia for over seven years. He, at the time, was complaining about the lack of Vietnamese girls in Hanoi that were interested in dating foreigners. This is quite the opposite from most other places in Asia. I asked him, quite simply, why he didn't just date one of the many foreign girls populating Hanoi? He looked me dead in my eyes, and spoke in a startlingly somber manner. "Oh no, Ed, I can't do that, I have been in the jungle for far too long mate." I laughed at that, at the time, but in retrospect, he meant exactly that. With Asian women, I am told, there is no effort in a relationship. There is almost always a language barrier that makes small talk and conversation almost pointless. Unlike with Western woman, who expect much more from a partner than just being there. He could no more go back to dating western girls after dating Asians than I will be able to go back to the way of life I traded in to come to Asia. It is not the girls for me, obviously, but it is everything else.
I am starting to feel like we have been in the jungle for too long, and we still have quite a way to go. I can imagine some of you reading this, shaking your heads and muttering..." I can't believe this jackass has the nerve to complain about being able to eat at nice restaurants every night!" It is the bigger picture that I am, not complaining about, but just worried about.
If Christmas came everyday, it would no longer be special. Fine dining has already reached a point with us where it is no longer special, and I am worried about the point where it will become expected, almost necessary. We simply can not live like this in North America. Not, unless we were wealthy, and I mean lotto 649 wealthy.
French, Italian, Asian, Brazilian, Greek, Mexican, Indian etc. Every evening we ask ourselves, "What are we going to eat tonight?" You wouldn't believe how many of the selections illicit the rolling of eyes. What do you get for the person who has everything? Well, I ask, What do you eat, when you can eat anything?
Welcome to the jungle baby!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

A little love people....

I know that some people are still checking in on our misadventures from time to time as our hit counter shows over 5, ooo hits. That is incredible. Remember, anyone who is still with us, that there are comment buttons at the bottom of every blog. Please leave a comment, as it is great hearing from you, even if it is just to say hi. This blog is one of the only connections we have with our world back home so anything is better than nothing.
Keep warm, keep safe and keep on truckin',

PS: It is actually a blue "Shout Out" button, just click on that and you can leave us a message.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Tiles and Tribulations

I just stepped out of the shower and proceeded to hang my towel up on the railing, I put all of my weight on one foot as I lean in to pin the top of the towel with a clothes pin, when my foot crashes through the tile, thanks to a hollow pit beneath it. A jagged piece of tile decides to almost sever my baby toe with a gaping, five inch circular gash that goes right to the bone. "Ouch" right? yeah, and then some. Karen hears the small explosion and comes to see what all the commotion is. It is at this moment that the blood starts to gush. Karen demands to take a look at the wound. I am actually unable to see it due to it's location at the bottom of my foot, but from the alarming amount of blood, I am assuming the worst. Karen takes one look at the wound and states immediately that I must go to the hospital. It was just after midnight and I was getting ready for bed, when the accident happened. I am sitting on the stairs holding my foot together with a maxi pad soaking up the blood, while Karen attempts to reach our landlord. She explained there was an accident and we must go to the hospital right away. They walk over and arrange for a taxi. I tape up my foot with some surgical tape and the maxi pad as a bandage and hobble out to meet the taxi, leaving behind enough blood and gore to double for a slaughter house floor.
We arrive at the hospital and my landlord then runs in to wake up the staff. I am led in to a small room with saloon like swinging doors. The doctor and nurse motion for me to lie down on a metal gurney. The gurney is about five and a half feet long and my feet hang off the end. They unwrap my ingenious bandage and proceed to gasp in horror at what they find beneath. I was doing a fairly heroic job of keeping it together up until the collective gasp from the medical staff.
"Oh, werry deepy" I get from my doctor, as the nurse just nods solemnly.
For the next half-hour they meticulously poke, prod and clean the wound, while I am torn between ticklish and terrorizing pain. They bathe the wound in various liquids that burn like fire and then wipe it with gauze.
After that, it was time for the stitches. Now, I have gotten stitches on many occasions. My ankle, head, face, and hand, just to name a few, but never before on the bottom of my foot. The pain was almost a religious experience. I feel born again after going through it. They attempted to freeze the area around the cut, but they said the skin was far too thick and hard for the needle. I retorted the fact that the floor tile had no problem breaking the skin. Once again, my humour is lost in translation. The next twenty minutes or so are kind of blurry. I remember having a hard time holding my foot still while they were operating, and just watching the gekko's scurry about on the walls and trying to think of anything else but the intense pain. Once they were done torturing me they decided I needed a tetanus shot. They gave me one of those and then I was free to go. The taxi driver waited around through all of this and drove us home.
All and all, I would have to say my Vietnamese hospital experience was decidedly more intimate than any hospital experience I have ever had elsewhere.
I had to take the weekend off of work, but I shall return on Monday, a little slower, but not too bad off. The stitches come out in a week.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Nov 7th (click for Movie) working finally!

Karen and I had the day off today and we decided to get out in the city and do some stuff. We started off at 8am and had a great breakfast at Culi Cafe, an Australian restaurant with great food. After breakfast we decided to take a swan paddle boat out on Westlake, where we live. After an hour of mad paddlin, we went to a cafe in the city to enjoy some ice tea and a great view. We spent the rest of the afternoon driving around and checking the place out. Click the title above to get to MySpace and see a short video we took of our day.


Nov 7th

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Sunday, November 19, 2006

The Vietnam Show.

I have to say that we are absolutely appalled by the behavior of the Vietnamese. I, of course, am not speaking of all Vietnamese, just some of them. This particular rant is going to fly a little south of politically correct, so I warn you now.
It now seems to us, that we are in the middle of a large, seemingly endless nature programme, where we are the explorers observing the native Vietnamese in their natural habitat. We are in awe of their unique and wondrous behavior. We have had the glorious opportunity to see grown men urinating in to the street, facing traffic, with absolutely no shame in their actions. We have stood by, observing as both men and woman go, knuckle deep, in to a nostril and root to satisfaction with a complete lack of embarrassment.
We have spent enough time around these wondrous folk that they have grown comfortable in our presence. On many occasion I will have a Vietnamese adult male walk up to me on the street, and without so much as a word start to rub my belly or squeeze my arms and shoulders. I take this to be an acceptance of some kind, and although it is unwanted and quite off-putting I have grown to tolerate it.
The truly exciting find is the "lifters". I believe them to be a discovery otherwise unknown to the western world, and we are racking our brains to come up with a more suitable name for these interesting little variety of Vietnamese males. I have experienced the actions of a "lifter" on four separate occasions. In every example it was a full grown male, Whom I had no previous interaction with. In each case this male would walk around me, scrutinizing me to their fullest extent. Once satisfied with his observations he leaps behind me and attempts to lift me off the ground. In every experience the lifter has failed miserable, yet there is little to no impact on the "Lifters" mood, as they seem relatively happy with the simple act of trying, and success seems unimportant.
Another puzzling aspect of their nature, both male and female, is the constant need for attention. They obtain that attention by being the loudest, most obnoxious voice in any given place. You have to imagine that a restaurant full of people like this can make quite a racket. This behaviour also takes itself to the streets where Vietnamese people try to outdo each other in both volume and duration of horn blasting. We have yet to figure out if this action is based on aggression or if it is possibly some kind of mating performance. We have not been in country long enough to make determinations like that.
Well, this is it for this installment of The Nature of Things in Vietnam, We will keep you posted on further finding of these curious creatures.
Until next time,

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Halong Bay ( Click for the movie) Working now!

We left our jobs at Vietnam News. Unfortunately, the pay was just not enough to accomplish our goals in Vietnam, so we had to move on. We began new jobs as English teachers at a school called Clever Learn. The money and the hours are better. Anyway, we recieved some tickets for a Halong Bay tour and we jumped at the opportunity to experience one of the best eco-tours available in Vietnam. It was two nights and three days of pure asthetic bliss. The bay itself is too beautiful to sully with mere words, and the Junk that we stayed on was a blast. The days started early and therefore the evenings were not long, we found ourselves in bed by midnight both Friday and Saturday. We got to take a tour of one of the biggest caverns on the planet, and do some sightseeing on Cat Bah Island. All in all it was a great way to relax and enjoy our last weekend before hitting the classroom hard and working long hours. We took many pictures, and made a little movie that I am currently attempting to put on MySpace, but the internet connections here are so bad they usually time out. There was supposed to be a movie from our day around town on Nov 7th, but we are experiencing some technical difficulties posting movies. Stay tuned, all issues will be worked out and you will be able to enjoy some of the sights we have seen. Here are a few pics from our trip.... Ed
The Bay

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Thursday, November 02, 2006

Click me to view a small movie of our new house!!!

Click the title above to see the new house, and click the title below to see my second restaurant review.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Click this for Edwardo's 2nd restaurant review

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Finally, A house to call our own

Sunday, October 15th, 2006, we move in to our house by the lake. It is a modest three storey affair, with two bedrooms a large kitchen and three, yes that's right, three patios. One balcony off of our bedroom, one patio off of the kitchen and the third and biggest balcony, on the roof, and a little courtyard in the front. There are two bathrooms and cathedral ceilings. Today will be our last evening in the hotel. We are both very excited to move into our place and put an end to this vagrant hotel living. We will take some pictures and maybe a video of our new home to put on myspace, which you can access by clicking the link at the bottom of every blog. " find me on myspace, and be my friend" We will post any videos on that site as I still havn't figured out how to post videos here. So stay tuned and take a peak at our new diggs.
Now, we extend an open invitation to any and all, friends and family to come and visit us. We have a comfortable, air-conditioned spare bedroom for you to use, and Vietnam offers many enjoyable activities for you tourist types. Give us a shout.

Monday, October 09, 2006

My first published restaurant review

Check out my first story here... For a limited time

copy and paste in to web browser or just click on the title above!

(Below are two examples of the kinds of scenery found here....)

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Spider sandwiches, and the cockroach tub!!

As most of you already know, I am not a huge fan of the crawlies. There are no shortage of the 6-8 legged devils in this filthy country. Two particular tales I would like to share are of the Spider sandwich and the Cockroach bathtub.
Karen and I strolled in to a cafe to have a coffee before work. It was a fair size and there were many people in there, which is normally a good sign. We found an empty table and had a seat, only to discover the menu was completely in Vietnames, and there were no english menu's available.
After some time we managed to get our request for coffee and a sandwich across to our waitress. We got our coffee first and Karen waited for her sandwich.
The sandwich arrived moments later and while it was unremarkable, it looked like a standard ham sandwich. Karen took a bite, and then opened the sandwich to inspect the meat and found a spider stuck to the mayonaise on the bottom side of the bread.
We, of course, returned the uneaten sandwich and Karen passed on a replacement. We finished our coffee and made to leave. We walked up to the counter to pay our bill and noticed a charge for the sandwich. Assuming it was a mistake we pointed it out to our waitress who was standing beside us smiling like a lunatic.
" You charged us for the sandwich we sent back." I said,"remember, had a spider in it!"
" Yes, spider!" still smiling like a half-wit.
" You can't be serious!" Stated Karen.
" Your charging us for the spider sandwich?" I asked again bewildered.
" We didn't eat it. It had a spider in it for christ sake!" Karen
" Let me get this straight... You want us to pay for the spider sandwich?"
" Yes, you pay for the spider sandwich." She stated.
With that I was satisfied. It was worth the doller just to hear her call it the spider sandwich. I can see some of you shaking your head in disbelief, that we would pay for the sandwich, but trust me, sometime the principle isn't even worth the trouble.
Now, for the cockroach. After living for over a year in Asia, you get used to the cockroaches that are everywhere you look. They simply become part of the scenery. The puzzleing thing about cockroaches is that even though they can fly, they choose not to, most of the time.
For example, we have a bathtub in our hotel room that seems to be Alkatraz for cockroaches. They get in but they never get out. Everyday, there is a single cockroach desperately trying to escape our bathtub, however, it's prickly little feet just can't find purchase. They never think to simply fly out and I find myself killing an extremely exhausted cockroach everyday, when I get back from work. Puzzlin, No?
Talk to you soon,

Sunday, October 01, 2006

The Two Week Mark

We have been citizens of Hanoi, Vietnam for two weeks now. Our search for an apartment has been fruitless thus far. Hotel living, while having it's advantages, encourages a lifestyle that we are growing tired of. While we have some leads for a new home, we find ourselves being taken advantage of. The idea in Vietnam, is a white face represents wealth, and by their standards, I suppose that is true for the most part. We have found modest apartments asking up to 600 USD, that is just ridiculous considering the same apartment would be rented to a Vietnamese person for less than 200 USD.
There is hope, however, as we are making friends with our Vietnamese co-workers, and they will help us to find a place at a more reasonable price. We have also tossed around the idea of shared accommodation. Living with two or three other people in a huge French villa. I guess we will see how that turns out.
As for work, it is great. This is probably the best job I have ever had. It's fun, creative, and fulfilling. I know I would never have been able to get a job like this in Canada, so I will enjoy it while I can. It doesn't pay as well as teaching English, but it is a much better stepping stone in to something better. Teaching English is like treading water. No future employers will look at it with any real appreciation. It is financially rewarding, I suppose, but you come away from it no further ahead, in terms of hireability. Many people at the Vietnam News, with no journalistic experience, have used this job as a means to move on to Bangkok News, Taipei Times and then Japan News, all of which are more financially rewarding than the last. I am told you can make up to 80,000 US working for Japan News. So we will bide our time, gain some experience and hopefully make the best of it, as so many others have done before us. Mr Johnny Shaw included.
We are afraid to do any traveling right now, as we are concerned with leaving our luggage in a hotel room, unchecked for days at a time. We will have much more to blog about once we get settled here and start to visit all of the interesting places that Vietnam has to offer. So stay tuned, eventually there will be many pictures and new stories of our new experiences.
Talk to you soon,

Thursday, September 28, 2006

It happened again, but better this time!

Karen and I decide to go for a drink with some colleagues from the Vietnam News, and the place we ended up was the very same Red Mask bar where the lights went out during our last visit. We had been there for a little while this time when it happened again. Lights out! The steel gate slides closed and we get the " Shhhhhhhhhhh, police!" from the staff.
This time it was a little more exciting. A police truck pulls up out front with the lights flashing. Five or six uniformed, Vietnamese police officers milling about out front. They stand at the door, hands cupped to their face, trying to see in through the treated glass of the front doors. Then to our surprise a batton shoots through the gate and hits the latch of the gate. The metal door slides open and the police burst through the door with flashlights in hand blowing whistles. There were about two dozen foreigners in the joint that night, and the police herded us out in to the street. Of course, nothing happened to us. We were free to travel half a block down the street to a bar that had done their civic duty and bribed the police. There, we were able to finish the bottles of beer from the Red Mask in peace and lumination.
The moral of this story..... ALWAYS BRIBE YOUR LOCAL AUTHORITIES!!

The absolute best part was when the police tried to leave and their truck wouldn't start. They had to get local street people to push their truck away. Totally emasculating, eh?

Saturday, September 23, 2006

The Situation So Far...

We have been in Vietnam for almost a week. We have both been offered jobs at Vietnam News as Editors. We start Monday. I am looking forward to the break from teaching English, but I know we can both make a lot more money as teachers so we may not stay long at the newspaper. We are still living in the Hotel as it is not as easy to find apartments here as it was in Taiwan. Taiwan had a wonderful resource in The Tainan Bulletin. Vietnam has no such resource, so it is mostly Cafe bulletin boards and word of mouth.
I am including a few pictures here, but we havn't taken many shots. Over the coming weeks we will be sure to capture some of the scenes that we find strange and beautiful here. I will write another blog about our first day at Vietnam News.
Until then,

Click the link to MySpace at the bottom of any blog to view a video of local traffic

(Our 12$ Hotel Room)

(Some Hanging Swine)

(The Lake by our Hotel)

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Darkhorse Lost at Sea & Lights out for Whiteys

We went to a local Western bar called the Red Mask last night. I played pool for drinks on the most banged up pool table in existance. The felt was mostly duct tape and the table was warped in three different places. It was also at a slight angle. It was kind of like playing mini golf on a pool table. We met lots of foreigners last night and heard some great stories.
One such story is a guy from Taipei who had been living in Taiwan for five years. He was dubbed the Darkhorse by his friends for his appreciation of Ladyboys in Thailand. The news just rolled in that Darkhorse, taking a ferry to avoid customs, as he was bringing in some illegal cargo, went overboard and was declared by the Japanese Coast Guard to be lost at sea. While the Japanese have lost all hope, the Westerners that knew him believe he is alive and well clinging to a rock somewhere in the straigt between Japan and Taiwan.
The moral of the story is never count out the Ladyboy loving Darkhorse.
The real excitement happened shortly after 1am when the Vietnam police rolled by with a flood light. To our surprise, the power went out and a heavy steel door dropped down over the entrance, trapping us inside. I immediately, for whatever reason, thought of The Lost Boys, and was anticipating the staff to turn into vampires and devour us all. It was explained to me that these clubs were not allowed to be open after 12:00 unless they pay a hefty bribe to the police. So this club has lookouts posted on the street and they signal the arrival of the police and the place shuts down in seconds with all the patrons sitting quietly inside, in the pitch black, drink in hand, waiting for the coast to clear and the lights and music to come back on. It was a unique experience and definately one I am glad we had.
Talk to you soon,

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Gooooood Morning Vietnaaaam!

Here we are. We said to ourselves. Hanoi, Vietnam. How do you like them apples? Well, I like 'em just fine. This place is amazing. It is like Mexico for Australians and Kiwis. There are a ton of foriegners here but most seem to be tourists. We ran in to a problem at the Taiwan airport that ended up costing us quite a few dollars, so we find ourselves a lot lighter financially than we had expected. Luckily, for us, everything here is the kind of cheap that makes you think you are halucinating or dreaming. We sit down in nice restaurants and eat huge meals, drink beer or whatever and have dessert. The kind of meals you would pay more than one hundred dollars for in Canada, we are paying 4-6 dollars. It is 1 dollar for a cab pretty much anywhere in the city. We are staying at a hotel for 12 dollars a night. This 12 dollar hotel consists of a double bed, satalite tv, mini-fridge and of course AC. The room is clean and there are no bugs.
From what we've seen on the streets, t-shirts, shorts and pants are a measly 2-4 dollars. We got new sim cards for our phones, without showing a lick of ID. In Taiwan, getting a sim card was like applying for a small business loan. The sim cards were 5 dollars and they came with ten dollars worth of minutes.
The temperature is the same as Taiwan, but there is a consistant breeze that makes it pleasant. The one downside is the constant harrassment by peddlers selling everything from books, hats, lighters, fruit and "Mareeewana". Everything they are selling is, of course, "werry cheepy" and they don't accept "no" for an answer unless you get rude about it.
I heard my first "A numbah 1 ok" and almost busted a gut laughing. One thing that is really cool, and I may actually purchase is a Vietnam War, American issue zippo. There were hundreds of thousands of these things left here during the war and there are peddlers on the street selling them. I don't know if they are authentic or not, but who cares?
I am in an internet cafe right now, and I will try and update frequently during our first few weeks here, as it is the most exciting time.
For those of you still reading, I thank you for your interest, and hope you keep tuning in.
Until next time,

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Back on the Scene. Crispy and Clean.(somewhat)

It has been a while, dear readers, since we have posted on our misadventures in Taiwan. Although there are numerous reasons for our negligence, it is inexcusable to go this long without adding something.
I will start with our trip back to Canada. It was wonderful to see all of our family and friends again. We got to see Tom and Katies baby girl Elle, the wonderful sandy beaches of NB and NS, as well as Joe and Kelly's new band play a couple of times. We hung out in Raddie Dave's basement and Larry and Sarah's new apartment. (New to us, I believe they have moved again since our visit) But most importantly, we got to spend some time with our parents and my beautiful little girl. It was a great time and we look forward to being able to do it again sometime in the distant future.
Since we've been back, there have been some changes. We have decided to move out of Taiwan and on to Vietnam. We will be occupying the area that Mr. Shaw is soon departing from in Hanoi. Thanks to his time and effort I believe the transition will be as comfortable as possible. Thank-you Johnny, you are a true friend and gentleman.
We, of course, have been quite busy packing up our belongings(that which we will take) and selling off the rest. Our apartment has already been spoken for, but we still have a motorcycle,scooter, and a computer to sell.
And, speaking of motorcycles...Karen and I got in to our first accidents in Taiwan!! The absolute best part is, we crashed in to each other! Karen is a little bruised and sore, but nothing serious. I suffered the same as her but with a little extra trauma thrown in to my right arm. All things considered it could have been much worse.( An idiot on a scooter cut Karen off, I was following a little too closely and when she slammed on her breaks and went sideways, I didn't have enough room to stop and we collided.)
In closing, I would like to say, that although the Merlins will no longer officially Taiwanon, we will be tearing up vietnam in the near future so goodbye Merlinstaiwanon and Good Morning Vietnam!!!!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Back to the Drawing Board

We are vacationing in Canada until August 3rd. We shall return to our blog when we return to Taiwan. Stay tuned...

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Rainy Day People

It has been raining for a week. The streets are rivers and all of the creepies and the crawleys are searching for higher ground. We have all of our drains closed off and any openings to the pipes and sewers are taped up. We are well into rainy season here in Taiwan, and we are looking for a break from the rain during our trip back to Canada.
Our bikes are starting to give us problems now, due to the constant wet and rain we are having problems getting them started. The fact that the rain never lets up, is making it impossible for us to dry them out.
We had thunder and lightning last night that lasted for hours. We stood and watched torrential rains, so heavy the water would bounce off of the ground and splash up a foot or so. It is an odd sight to watch water both fall and rise at the same time. If the lightning had of been workable in the pre dawn we would have taken some video of the strange sight of it.
We will be nice and sick of the rain by the time we leave for Canada, so anyone who is reading this, could you please do whatever you can to make sure it is sunny and nice for the duration of our stay. We are giving you plenty of notice. I don't want to see any rain in Canada.
Other than the diving, we are particularly boring right now as we go about saving up our money and getting ready for the horribly long trip back to Canada. I wish I had something a little more exciting to write about than rain. I assure you it will get more interesting upon our return.
Bye for now, and for those of you in N.S, see you soon.

Monday, May 29, 2006

KTV & Diving in Kenting

It was an eventful week-end for the The Merlins. We spent our saturday enjoying hotpot cuisine and KTV with my adult students. We went to 24h Party World for two hours where we commenced with the drinking and singing. I belted out House of the Rising Sun and Don't You (forget about me) and Karen did a stunning duet with Melinda(Taiwanese Teacher) of a techno version of What's Up. Although it ended early, it was a wonderful evening. We couldn't stay out very late on Saturday due to our 6am departure from Tainan the next morning. We were up with the birds and bats to start our long Sunday. We took the train to Kaoshiung to meet some other divers and a grizzly old Limey Instructor named Andy. We piled in to a van and we were off for Kenting. An hour and a half later we found ourselves in a beautiful beachfront area with sparkleing green seas and a wonderful breeze. We spent the day diving and ended it all off with a nice meal and a cool pegio or two. We are looking forward to the same thing next week-end. I am enclosing some pictures of our night before and day after.

( Karen getting ready to take the plunge)

( I love this picture)

( Packed in like a can of tuna)

( Andy's Angels)

( The whole gang)

( Entertaining the locals)

Monday, April 03, 2006

Fool-ish Earthquake!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

We experienced our first encounter with an earthquake on Sat. April 1st,2006 at 6:02PM local time. Apparantly Mother Nature had an April Fool's Day joke of her own in mind. Fortunately for those of us living in Tainan, it was felt as a moderate tremor instead of the powerful 6.4 blast on the richter scale that was felt in other regions of the country. It originated in the Southeastern tip of the island (not too far from us) and apparantly shook the skyscraper buildings in the Northeast capital of Taipei, on the opposite end of the island (the island is approx. the same size as P.E.I.-for those folks at home to compare).
Ed and I were just getting ready to go out for dinner when it struck. He had just exited our 2nd floor apt with a week's worth of garbage bags in tow in a last minute attempt to catch the daily garbage truck run, and was descending the inside stairs to the front entrance when it happened. He claims he didn't feel anything strange. I, however, in my well known last minute rush to get ready, was still inside the apt primping in the mirror when it hit. All of a sudden, the things on my dresser started to shake up and down, as did the things on the tables and shelves around me, just like it happened on those creepy poltergiest movies. Then, the floor starting shifting quickly from side to side, as if I were standing on a vibrating teeter-totter. Finally, the entire building started to gently sway, and that's when I made a mad dash for the door!!! The whole thing happened in about fifteen seconds or less. Just enough time to realize just what the heck is going on for a first timer. See, normally we wouldn't be alarmed by a little vibrating and a loud noise, as there are 747's flying into the Tainan airport right over our apt on a regular basis. We just got used to it. The funny thing is, just as the earthquake hit, one flew right overhead. I think that's why Ed didn't even notice it. Plus, he was going down a flight of stairs carrying heavy bags. He thought I was crazy when I came running outside blabbing something about an earthquake! It wasn't until we went out later that night when everyone was talking about it that he finally beleived me! Oh well, Ed, I'm sure that won't be our last one!

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Dinner with class

We went out for a lovely dinner with one of my adult classes. I tried everything on the table, and it was all seafood. I am an entirely different person here. I never touched seafood at home. It is very good here. The cast includes from left...
(Benson, Ping, Zoe, Kiki, Dave, Andy, Myself, Ricky, Melinda and of course Karen)

Friday, March 17, 2006

Out of sight, out of mind, out of touch?

It was about quarter to ten when I decided to join a colleague of mine for an after school Heineken in a park next to my school. Karen was working for another hour or so, and I had nothing better to do anyway. We found a couple of comfortable chairs and began to discuss movies, television and other such popular fare. It was then that we came to the conclusion that we were completely ignorant of the goings on of Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise and J-Lo. Moving to Taiwan had effectively cut me off from the daily barrage of information regarding the personal lives of celebrities. I came to the realization that I loved not knowing. I am blissfully unaware of the trials and tribulations of movie stars, and I could care no less.
My once vast and mighty sea of pop culture knowledge is drying up by the day. My friends back home, who have found me to be a most challenging Pop-culture trivialist? (is that a word?) Will definitely have the upper hand now, although I will still be a ferocious De Niro player, being that I still watch movies.
I know some people enjoy sneaking a peek in to the lives of movie stars, but I recommend taking a break, and I know it would be hard to do in North America, but try it just the same. It is lovely not having a clue about the stupid lives of people I have never met, and who care about me even less than I care about them.
Bye for now,

( Here are some pictures of two banged up cats on the mend.)

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The Passion of the Mormon

It was a day like any other that I found myself traveling from one school to the next, for my second class of the day. I rode my motorcycle to the same intersection I always do and waited for the long red light to go away and allow me to continue on. I glanced, unassumingly to my left and noticed a young blonde fellow on a bicycle smiling at me from ear to ear.
“How ya doing?” I said, with a slight nod of my head, signifying that it was more of a greeting than an actual question, as I did not want to get involved in a conversation whilst awaiting a light change.
“ Excellent!” He responded, and right away I knew something was up. Who does that? Who responds “Excellent” when someone asks them how they are doing? A Mormon, that’s who. He proceeded to ask me if I was a teacher and where I was from.
“Yes” and “NS, Canada” were my answers to that, hoping that would be an end to it.
“ A lot of our members are Canadian Teachers!” He went on, still smiling from ear to ear.
Luckily the light turned green. “ See ya later!” I called out over my shoulder as I peeled away from him. I made it about two city blocks before another red light caught me and held me in place. Mere seconds after I arrived my friend on the bicycle pulled up beside me and continued on with his attempt at saving my soul from eternal damnation. He began to ask me if I was familiar with the Church of Jesus Christ and the Later Day Saints. I said I was vaguely aware of such an organization. He began to tell me about a fellow named John and his time in “the Americas”. Green Light, I was gone again, hoping to have seen and heard the last from my new Mormon friend. That was not to be.
The blonde headed Mormon caught up with me again at the next light. I have to admit, I was starting to like this guy. He was red-faced and winded by our third meeting and was catching his breath while trying to convert me. I heard a little more about John and the Indians before I was off again. Yet another red light and the little fella had caught me again. This time he pulled up even more out of breath and barely able to speak. It was all I could stand, I asked him if there was some kind of spiritual commission that he gained from these sorts of things, as he was definitely working his ass off. If he had of been selling stereos instead of eternal salvation I probably would have bought two! I told him to save his breath and his energy, as he was not going to convert me to Mormonism or whatever they are calling it these days. I did tell him that I liked his gumption, and out of all the Mormons I had ever spoken to, he was my favorite. I assured him he did a good job, and if there was ever a chance of converting me, he had the first crack at it. I bid him goodbye and at the next red light I ran it, just to be safe. I don’t think they are allowed to run red lights.

Bye for now,

Saturday, January 28, 2006


The Lunar New Year is the most significant festival for ethnic Chinese around the world, wherever they come from. It is a very jubilant occasion mainly because it is the time when people take a break from work to get together with family and friends.

The origin of the Lunar New Year Festival can be traced back thousands of years, involving a series of colorful legends and traditions. One of the most famous legends is Nian ¦~, an extremely cruel and ferocious beast that the ancients believed would devour people on New Year's Eve. To keep Nian away, red-paper couplets are pasted on doors, torches are lit, and firecrackers are set off throughout the night, because Nian is said to fear the color red, the light of fire, and loud noises. Early the next morning, as feelings of triumph and renewal fill the air at successfully keeping Nian away for another year, the most popular greeting heard is gong si ®¥³ß, or "congratulations."
Even though Lunar New Year celebrations generally last for only several days, starting on New Year's Eve, the festival itself is actually about three weeks long. It begins on the twenty-fourth day of the twelfth lunar month, the day, it is believed, when various gods ascend to heaven to pay their respects and report on household affairs to the Jade Emperor, the supreme Taoist deity. According to tradition, households busily honor these gods by burning ritualistic paper money to provide for their traveling expenses. Another ritual is to smear malt sugar on the lips of the Kitchen God, one of the traveling deities, to ensure that he either submits a favorable report to the Jade Emperor or keeps silent.

Next, "spring couplets" are hung up around the house. Spring couplets are paper scrolls and squares inscribed with blessings and auspicious words, such as "good fortune," "wealth," "longevity," and "springtime." The paper squares are usually pasted upside down, because the Mandarin word for "upside down," dao, is a homonym of the word "arrival." Thus, the paper squares represent the "arrival" of spring and the "coming" of prosperous times.
For more info go to

Unfortunately, this year, the pouring rain kept most revelers indoors. There was a spirited outburst of fireworks and firecrackers at midnight that lasted about an hour, but it paled in comparison to previous years, or so we are told.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Sunburned on January 14th

We returned to Kaohsuing once again. This time it was to watch Dave May and his team the "Tainan Phoenix" play in a soccer tournament. We started out Saturday morning at 9AM on a bus with the team and some other supporters. The bus ride was comfortable and didn’t take too long. We soon arrived at some fancy high school on the outskirts of Kaoshuing. There were 16 teams and they played 25 minute games. It was interesting for a while, but Karen and I do not equally share Mr. Mays’ love for the game, and found ourselves bored before too long.
The temperature was just less than 30 degrees and we were sunburned within the hour. We decided to hail a cab and make our way into the city, where we checked into our hotel and dropped off the heavy backpack that we had been lugging around all day. We then made our way to an 85-floor building with an observation deck on the 75th floor. The elevator is the second fastest elevator in the world, with the fastest also being in Taiwan -at the Taipei 101- which is now the tallest building in the world. It was a strange experience to have my ears pop repeatedly on an elevator ride. We traveled 75 floors in no more than 25-30 seconds. The view was incredible. We quickly settled into the bar at dusk(6PM-ish)where we had a drink and watched the night fall from high above the city.
We then made our way to a popular western joint- Smokey Joe's- where we had a fantastic meal, and went on to spend the rest of the evening bar-hopping. It was a great time, and we found some interesting places that we are definitely looking forward to returning to. I am including some pictures from our weekend.
Bye for now,

P.S. Since I don’t seem to be finding too many things that are bad or ugly, I am going to add another element to the Good, Bad & Ugly site. CHINGRISH and all the funniest instances of it we can find. Coming soon to a sidebar near you.....!

(Dave May sporting red knee highs)

(One of the views from the 75th floor)